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Ancient stone tablet reveals origins of wine criticism

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Lost in the hoopla surrounding last week’s announcement of the discovery of the world’s oldest wine press was the unearthing of a stone tablet proving that wine criticism may be at least 6,000 years older than was previously thought.

The ancient winery was found at a remote cave site in Armenia, called Winna Speg-ta-torr, or “Believe [in the] God [or] Die.” News of the winery’s discovery bolted around the globe. But just yesterday, one of the archeologists who led the dig, Gregory Areshian of the University of California Los Angeles, announced he had also discovered a stone tablet, almost intact, that suggests vintners of old may have been as subject to wine criticism as are today’s winemakers.

The tablet, Areshian reported, was made of basalt, and was approximately 12 inches wide and 15 inches long, or about the size of a modern oversized wine magazine. It refers to an entity, Ruh-Buh-Puh-Kuh, or “He [who] kills [or] blesses [the] wine.” In an interview, Areshian said it is unclear just who or what this entity was thought to be by the late Stone Age Armenians. “Ruh-Buh-Puh-Kuh may have been an actual person, perhaps a warlord. Or it may have referred to some god. Either way, he seems to have been worshipped. We just don’t know enough about these people’s strange religion.”

The stone, which was difficult to translate because it was written in a little understood trans-Sumerian language called Geekish, refers to a wine, made by a local minor official named Freidy-Franzzxsiah (the name is an anagram of the ancient number for “Two” and the word for a huge quantity), which seems to have been popular with slaves. Areshian said references to the same wine have been found in archeological digs as widespread as the Egyptian tombs of Luxor and the ruins of Southern California shopping centers. In the reference to the wine of Freidy-Franzzxsiah, Ruh-Buh-Puh-Kuh referred to “chicken entrails,” although other translations have it as “swamp gas” and “vomitous emissions.”

Areshian said that Ruh-Buh-Puh-Kuh cursed the wine of Freidy-Franzzxsiah, referring to it as ”unholy” and “an affront to the High One, Jhim-Low-Bee.” This “Jhim Low-Bee,” a previously unknown Caucasian spirit-entity, seems to have held special terrors for people. Also unclear is the hierarchical relationship between Ruh-Buh-Puh-Kuh and Jhim-Low-Bee. Was one higher than the other in the totem pole of ancient deities? Were they different names for the same entity? Nobody yet knows.

“Clearly, we have much to learn about the strange, cultic practices of these ancient peoples, which are so different from our own,” Areshian says, adding, “That’s the nice thing about archeology. It lets us see how much human intelligence has progressed over the millennia.”

  1. Weren’t the oldest contrarian wine cults, the WainBaZaKas and the VayNiaKas also represented in the rubble? The Armenia Wine Dude was also found to be making a run at professionalism before the winery collapsed due to collapse of the market due to foreign demand?

  2. Colorado,
    In a cave of one of those cults it is written that if you read the tablet backwards you can read: “Sha-Ankh-Hen (is) Dead” and “Sieve-Haa-Mov (is) God”. Legend has it this tablet is what started the rule of the thousand years of terroir.

  3. Lucky us and it’s not even April yet! Go Steve!

  4. HA!!!

    This post is now tied with Tom’s at http://excellentproj.com/2011/01/14/wine-writer-certification-test-cheat-sheet/ for funniest of the year (so far, of course!).

  5. I can see the trailer now — “California Heimoff and the Ancient Winery of Armenia!” Our intrepid hero is an independent man of vinous adventure who circles the globe in search of, and reviewing, ancient wine treasures, while dashingly outfitted in a well-worn fedora, a Riedel tasting glass in a custom holster on his hip and a BS-detector whip wrapped around his torso.

    The most memorable scene is a dangerous encounter in a wine cave, where California Heimoff (or “Stevie” as he’s known to his legions of fans) steals a Magnum of the mythical Toor Lee Zinn from its place of reverence on a bobby-trapped pedestal. As he stealthily exchanges a similar bottle of Friedy in its place on the pedestal, the cave begins to tremble and shake! Our hero looks over his shoulder, only to be horrified as a huge round ball of cork comes tumbling toward him at a high rate of speed!

    He encounters many characters in his adventures, including the slavish cult members who follow the commandments of RBPK to this very day. The hotbed of RBPK cult members is the little known region of Nah Pah (a valley surrounded by mountains in a remote area of the world tortured with frequent earthquakes, floods and round-the-clock papparazzi) and our hero has many close calls in dealing with the natives.

    I foresee a number of installments, especially if we can get Spielberg (or maybe Coppola) to sign on — who’s going to play Short Round?

  6. Sherman, I’m happy to star in your fantasy — as long as I’m paid the same as Harrison Ford!

  7. Indeed, a rather Geekish explanation of this extraordinary find in Armenia’s terroirs.

  8. So how are you with snakes?

    Seriously, it was a pretty cool article about the find in Armenia, given the fact that it was part of a complex of caves dating back some 6,000 years. Seems vitis vinifera was the star even then, and the good doctor theorized that the production of wine was possibly related to the Copper Age cemetery and “place of ritual” nearby.

    If you get paid like Harrison, then I should be able to make a little money from the screenplay, right? See, we just need a blockbuster with a wine-centric theme to bring awareness of good juice to the mass market.

  9. I just keep wondering how folks are going to read these comments 1000 years from now, without an iPhone emulator, or an old copy of Internet Explorer 8…
    Maybe there’s a market in making basalt backups of everyone’s respective posts?

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